An Analysis of Use of Symbolism in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

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“The Story of an Hour” is a short story by Kate Chopin, an author most famous for her work “The Awakening.” Chopin often wrote of women trapped in unhappy and stifling relationships, and so it is unsurprising that this subject is broached again in “The Story of an Hour.” What makes this short story fascinating is Chopin’s use of symbolism to convey her message to the audience. In “The Story of an Hour,” Kate Chopin uses the heart, an open window, and the setting of springtime to convey her message symbolically.

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In “The Story of an Hour” the main character, Mrs. Mallard, dies at the end due to heart complications. More specifically it is written that. “she had died of heart disease of joy that kills” (Chopin 534). Mrs. Mallard quite literally dies upon seeing her husband, as she is so shocked and upset to leam that he is in fact alive. Having finally found freedom and begun to contemplate a life lived for no one but herself she is brought crashing back down into reality when her husband arrives home and it is too much for her to handle: her heart problems symbolize her problems in her marriage and her unhappiness with her lack of freedom.

“The Story of an hour” also uses the open window to symbolize Louise gaining freedom, and therefore happiness, Louise has just leamed of her husbands death and locked herself in her room, “facing the open window… There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing the window” (Chopin 532). This open window, and the blue patches of sky, symbolizes the freedom and the opportunities that await Louise now that her husband is out of the picture. Everything she sees out the window is happy and bright, representing new life, and Louise begins to feel elated, repeating the word “free” to herself over and over.

The setting of Spring in “The Story of an Hour” is no accident. It is not by chance that the season of new life and rebirth was chosen for this story. As Louise stares out the window she notices something, “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Chopin 532). Louise is noticing all the little signs of life around her, of new beginnings. Even though winter has just passed by things are beginning again and new life has sprung up. This is a symbol for the opportunities that Louise now has, even in the wake of a tragedy.

“The Story of an Hour” does a great job symbolically, using Louise’s heart trouble, the open window, and the setting all as themes. These themes all go a long way in enhancing the story and allowing the audience insight into Louise’s plight. Unfortunately for her, Louise’s excitement for her new life, and shock when her husband arrives home unharmed, is ultimately her undoing and leads to her death by heart attack.

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An Analysis of Use of Symbolism In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin. (2022, Oct 06). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from

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